Reasonable Radicals and Citizenship in Botswana

Reasonable Radicals and Citizenship in Botswana

The Public Anthropology of Kalanga Elites
Richard Werbner
Distribution: World
Publication date: 6/22/2004
ISBN: 978-0-253-11024-4
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Are self-interested elites the curse of liberal democracy in Africa? Is there hope against the politics of the belly, kleptocracies, vampire states, failed states, and Afro-pessimism? In Reasonable Radicals and Citizenship in Botswana, Richard Werbner examines a rare breed of powerful political elites who are not tyrants, torturers, or thieves. Werbner’s focus is on the Kalanga, a minority ethnic group that has served Botswana in business and government since independence. Kalanga elites have expanded public services, advocated causes for the public good, founded organizations to build the public sphere and civil society, and forged partnerships and alliances with other ethnic groups in Botswana. Gathering evidence from presidential commissions, land tribunals, landmark court cases, and his lifetime relationship with key Kalanga elites, Werbner shows how a critical press, cosmopolitanism, entrepreneurship, accountability, and the values of patriarchy and elderhood make for an open society with strong, capable government. Werbner’s work provides a refreshing alternative to those who envision no future for Africa beyond persistent agony and lack of development.

Author Bio

Richard Werbner is Professor of African Anthropology and Director of the International Centre for Contemporary Cultural Research at the University of Manchester and Professorial Fellow at the University of Botswana. Among his books are Ritual Passage, Sacred Journey; and Tears of the Dead, for which he won the Amaury Talbot Prize.


". . . the book is enlightening in its call that we have a new paradigm shift in the way we write about Africa. —" —net, April 2005

Reasonable Radicals differs from other studies of postcolonial Africa, in which political tyranny, corruption, and violence occupy a central stage. In this monograph, Werbner points to hopeful developments in Botwana. . . Reasonable Radicals contains genuinely interesting observations on the intricacies of cosmopolitan ethnicity, and provides a rare glimpse into the concerns of prominent elites." —Isak Niehaus, Brunel University, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute , March 2009

". . . contains genuinely interesting observations on the intricacies of cosmopolitan ethnicity, and provides a rare glimpse into the concerns of prominent elites." —Isak Niehaus, Brunel University,
Jrnl Royal Anthropological Inst JRAI , Vol. 15.1 March 2009

"The first thing that struck me as I was reading through Dick Werbner’s very engaging book, was just how much he does in fact engage with local scholarship in Botswana. There are very few western scholars who recognize local scholarship to the extent that this author does in terms of meaningful debate and substantive citations of work produced by Botswana scholars. In this regard he stands in a class of his own." —Onalenna Doo Selolwane, University of Botswana, Dept. of Sociology,
African Development , Vol. 30.3 2005

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Reflections and Frontiers
Part 1. Citizens Negotiating Power: Elites, Minorities, and Tribal Bureaucrats
1. Postcolonial Wisdom: The Post-Civil Service and the Public Good
2. The Minorities Debate
3. The Politics of Recognition and "Pressure Groups"
4. Cosmopolitan Ethnicity, Entrepreneurship and the Nation
5. Official Blundering and the Discredited Commission
6. Land, Clients, and Tribal Bureaucrats
Part 2. The Rise of Public Man: Elders
7. Bringing Back the Dead
8. Public Officer, Public Officer Emeritus
9. The Making of a Reasonable Radical
Epilogue: Postcolonial Wisdom, Beyond Afro-pessimism